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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Feeding Dogs with High Blood Fat

May 23, 2014 / (1) comments

Dogs with hyperlipidemia, also called lipemia, have higher than normal amounts of triglycerides and/or cholesterol in their blood stream. When triglycerides are elevated, a sample of the dog’s blood can look a bit like a strawberry smoothie (sorry for the food reference), while the serum, the liquid part of blood that remains after all the cells have been removed, will have a distinctly milky appearance.

 

Hyperlipidemia can have several causes, the most common of which is a normal physiological response that occurs after a dog has eaten a meal containing moderate to high levels of fat. Blood lipid levels generally fall back into the normal range 6-12 hours after eating. Therefore, the first thing a veterinarian will do when faced with a dog with hyperlipidemia is to repeat the testing on a sample of blood that was unquestionably taken after a 12 hour fast.

 

If hyperlipidemia persists despite fasting, my next step is to rule out other diseases that can cause fat levels in the blood to rise. Diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis, hypothyroidism, and a type of kidney disease that causes protein to be lost into the urine are the most common primary diseases that can result in hyperlipidemia. Adequately controlling the primary problem in these cases will usually take care of the hyperlipidemia as well.

 

Retesting a fasted serum sample and a thorough health work-up to rule out other diseases will eliminate most cases of hyperlipidemia … unless the dog in question in a schnauzer. This breed is predisposed to a condition called idiopathic hyperlipidemia. “Idiopathic” simply means that we’re not sure of the cause, though in this case an inherited deficiency in lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme needed for normal lipid metabolism, is suspected. Other breeds can also be affected by idiopathic hyperlipidemia, but it is seen at a much lower rate.

 

Some dogs with hyperlipidemia have no clinical signs while others become quite sick. Symptoms of hyperlipidemia can include:

 

  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • eye disorders
  • skin problems
  • abnormal behavior
  • seizures

 

Dogs with hyperlipidemia are at higher than average risk for a very serious form of pancreatitis, so fat levels in the blood should be reduced even if the dog is currently asymptomatic.

 

Dietary changes are at the center of treating idiopathic hyperlipidemia. Mild cases may respond to over the counter low fat dog foods, but more significantly affected individuals will benefit from eating one of the very fat restricted diets that are available by prescription only. Since fat plays an important role in palatability, getting dogs to eat these foods can be challenging. When this is a problem, feeding the dog a home-prepared diet based on a recipe formulated by a veterinary nutritionist will usually do the trick.

 

If dietary changes alone aren’t sufficient, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, niacin (a type of B-vitamin), or chitin (a fiber supplement that comes from shellfish) are worth a try. Some veterinarians will also prescribe gemfibrozil, a drug that can reduce the body’s production of tryglicerides and other fats, but clinical experience with the medication is very limited.

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

Image: Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

 

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Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Fat!
    05/30/2014 04:59pm

    A sudden intake of fat can certainly cause problems in cats so I assume it's probably the same for dogs.

    I know a kitty that got into a bowl of hamburger grease. (The owner had put it in a container and set it in the sink to solidify before throwing it out.) The cat had a real feast until lipidosis set in. Poor kitty even had grease on his whiskers and didn't feel well enough to clean them off. The cat almost died.

    The human is very, very careful about grease now.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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